Learn the best companion plants to grow with cilantro to encourage healthy growth, attract pollinators and repel problem insects from your edible gardens.
Cilantro adds a distinctive spicy flavor to many different types of food. But its benefits don’t end there. Sowing cilantro alongside your other plants can also help to repel pest insects and attract beneficial insects. But cilantro gets along better with some plants than others. Read on to learn more.
How to Repel Bad Bugs and Attract Good Bugs with Cilantro
One of my least favorite parts of vegetable gardening is dealing with insect pests. I’m an organic gardener, and I don’t want to use poisons on my plants.
I also get sick of pest bugs skeletonizing leaves, chewing on fruits, and spreading diseases from plant to plant. I’ve hand-picked bugs and fed them to my chickens. I’ve sprayed targeted organic insecticides. And sometimes, I’ve gotten unexpectedly good results just from growing herbs near my vegetables.
For several years I spent many frustrating hours picking fat orange potato beetle grubs off my plants and still seeing many leaves destroyed and plants stunted.
One year some of the beetle grubs had smaller, darker creatures—parasites– boring into their backs and eating them. I picked off the healthy beetle grubs and left the parasitized ones to keep feeding their parasites. I have not had potato beetles in my garden since then—it’s been more than ten years.
I think my parasite rescuers may have been attracted by the dill plants which seed themselves all over my vegetable garden. But cilantro also attracts various predatory and parasitic insects, including hoverflies, which eat aphids.
Cilantro is also known to repel a variety of pest insects. This benefit might come from attracting beneficial insects. It might also come from cilantro’s strong smell, repelling pest insects directly.
However it works, cilantro (or coriander, which is the same plant grown for seed) is supposed to ward off aphids, Colorado potato beetles, and spider mites. Wikipedia adds whiteflies to the list of repelled insects.
List of Cilantro Companion Plants – Friends and Enemies in the Garden
Cilantro/coriander is said to be particularly beneficial to the following plants:
- Brussels sprouts
Cilantro can get a boost from being planted with nitrogen-fixing crops like beans and peas. It won’t do them any harm.
Don’t grow cilantro close to the following plants:
- Dill. (The plants will cross-pollinate so that neither will self-seed true)
When, Where, and How to Plant Cilantro With Other Crops
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to companion planting. Make a plan to suit the site you have, the season you’re growing in, and the vegetables you want to grow.
Here are some factors to consider:
Spacing and Moisture
Setting your cilantro fairly close to your vegetables may increase the chances that its scent will repel pest bugs from them.
But if you plant your cilantro too close to your vegetables, they’ll tangle together when fully grown. This thick growth will stay dew-damp far into the day, creating an environment where fungus can spread fast on susceptible plants like tomatoes. This is less of a problem with plants like lettuce or asparagus that are not particularly fungus-prone.
On the other hand, setting cilantro close enough to vegetables so that the soil remains shaded between them will discourage weeds and reduce soil drying. This could be a good thing.
Remember to account for how much space your cilantro and its companions will need when they are full-grown. Cilantro plants fill about 10” of space.
If you’re in a cold climate or growing during a cold part of the year, your cilantro will grow best in full sun. In that case, you may not want to plant it close under the north side of a row of Brussels sprouts.
But if you’re growing during the summer in a hot climate your cilantro may benefit from afternoon shade. Maybe you can plant it on the east side of a row of taller plants.
Timing and Competition
My own experience suggests that cilantro grows fast and readily outcompetes weeds. This means that it can also easily outcompete later-planted vegetable crops if it’s grown too near to them.
I often let companion herbs grow up between my tomato plants (these are already large vigorous seedlings by the time I set them in the garden) so long as they don’t end up touching the plants. I also let them grow among my brassicas, but only after the brassica plants are well established so the faster-growing herbs won’t shade them out.
On the other hand, some plants may shade out or outcompete your cilantro. Later in the season asparagus grows up to ferns to put energy back into the roots. The ferns are large and thick and tend to thoroughly shade everything beneath them.
If you’re planning to use cilantro as a companion for asparagus, you could get around this in two ways. You could start the cilantro very early in the season, allowing it to mature before the asparagus ferns reach full size. Or you could plant it to the south and beyond the immediate reach of the asparagus ferns.
Summary Of Companion Planting With Cilantro
There are many possibilities for harnessing cilantro’s benefits for your other garden plants.
This article should give you some ideas to start with. Experiment and see what works for you.